May 2, 2008
About 100,000 federal workers retire each year and that's when they learn that some are more equal than others -- at least when it comes to pay for unused sick leave, says the National Journal.
- Most federal employees hired after 1983 are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
- When those workers retire, they don't get paid for their accrued sick leave.
- Participants in the older Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), however, are compensated for their unused sick time when they leave government service.
- FERS employees use substantially more sick leave than those in the CSRS, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) is sponsoring a bill that would let the government pay 15 percent of a FERS retiree's final salary (at an hourly rate) for any sick leave balance of more than 500 hours with payments capped at $10,000.
Congress adopted the sick leave payout in 1969 after the Civil Service Commission reported that retiring federal employees used an average of 40 sick days in their final year. When lawmakers again revised the retirement system in 1986, Congress ignored the lessons learned under CSRS, and history is repeating itself, says Moran.
- Some 85 percent of employees in the older system said they conserved as much sick leave as possible; 75 percent of FERS employees said they would use as much sick leave as possible before they retired.
- Many management groups say that FERS employees' increased use of sick leave has hampered productivity.
- What's more, absenteeism is likely to worsen, as 60 percent of federal workers become eligible to retire over the next decade.
Source: Brittany Ballenstedt, "Retirement Hangover," National Journal, April 12, 2008.
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